How are you doing? I hope you are well. We are out of lock down at the moment. But, who knows what tomorrow brings. It has been a crazy, topsy turvy, upside down, inside out kind of year.
I'm sorry for not sending the last two newsletters. I always put a piece of myself in these newsletters. And, it is hard to be happy and chirpy when so many people are fighting.
What do I mean? The maskers, the anti-maskers, the vaxxers, anti-vaxxers, the pro-choice, no-choice, for lock down and against lock down. It is all bonkers!!! I know I'm never supposed to be political in these newsletters, but I've added a letter I wrote to my local MP at the bottom of this newsletter. (Weirdly, my local MP never read the letter. His staff chose not to give it to him. Which was kind of soul destroying. There is something about pouring your everything into a letter to your local MP and his staff telling you he is too busy to bother to read letters sent to him. That broke my heart in two.)
Anyway, I guess I had to get that out. Thank you for being patient with me. On with the show.
Roald Dahl is one of my favourite authors and I've seen a few people meanly use his quotes to divide and dominate others. I found it really strange because the hero's of Roald Dahl's books always had one thing in common. They were kind. Their most important feature wasn't that they were strong or tough or brave or divisive. The thing that made his heroes, heroes was kindness.
This year I have seen multitudes of people divided, attacked and ridiculed for their struggles and beliefs. This is NOT OK. It doesn't matter whether you are scared or anxious or trapped in a permanent state of 'fight or flight'. Being disrespectful to people with different struggles or beliefs is unkind. Doing it would make you a villain in a Roald Dahl book. Not a hero.
Hero's are considerate. They are respectful. They have empathy. They take the time to understand other people's problems. When they see someone struggling with the masses of changes Covid has thrust upon us. They don't mock, attack or take advantage of them. That is the sort of thing villains do.
It is the sort of thing that makes everything worse. Where being kind makes everything better. There are so many things in Covid we can't control and shouldn't be trying to control. But, the one thing we can do is to 'do our best to be kind'. Sometimes this is tricky. It involves taking a deep breath. Putting down your phone. Maybe switching off the TV. Avoiding the radio. Going for a quick walk and putting on a smile that goes all the way to your eyes when you would rather be curling up in a ball. But, it is worth it.
Being kind is valuable. It is special and the wonderful thing about kindness is that it is contagious. When one person sees kindness. They copy and it spreads. Such as the Facebook group. "Bussinesses United Auatralia"
It has gone from 0 to 162,000 people in two weeks.
I like this group because it is kind. It brings people together. It reminds us that we are one and there are a lot of wonderful people out there. Watching all the wonderful happy kind people in that group makes me feel happy and hopeful for a pandemic of kindness to wash away the fear.
If we lived our life in a musical. This would be the point where the entire cast would break out into The Seekers song..
We are one, but we are many
And from all the lands on earth we come
We'll share a dream and sing with one voice
"I am, you are, we are Australian"
Then all the fear would magically disappear, the cast would break out into enormous grins and the pandemic of kindness would begin.
We don't live in a musical. But, everything goes full circle and I'm looking forward to the Pandemic of Kindness. Where people smile and look at each other. Where we all do kind and generous things. Where Aussies and Kiwis are one and everyone has what it takes to be a hero in a Roald Dahl story.
On the first day of our last lockdown I picked snow peas from our wicking beds. Wandering out to the yard, picking fresh snow peas, munching on parsley and lettuce felt so good. Of all the things I have done to save money over the years the wicking beds give me the most pleasure for the least effort.
Do you remember more than two years ago the kids and Matt made me two 1 x1 m wicking beds for my birthday? The whole thing from removing weeds, flattening the ground, cutting up the IBC containers, placing and filling them took a day or two. Since then we have eaten something from these beds nearly every single day. And, it feels fantastic!
Especially because I'm a terrible gardener. Yet, even I can grow food in wicking beds because they are small and easy to maintain.
Here is a list of things we have been eating out of them for the last two years. Ten different types of lettuce, Thai basil, Italian basil, parsley galore, snow peas in winter, asparagus, tarragon, chives, spring onions, tomatoes, thyme, maragarom and Japanese parsley.
If you would like to set up your own beds. Here are links to articles on how we created them.
My favourite part about having these beds and growing some of our own food is the way going to the yard and snacking on plants makes me feel. It is really grounding and helps me remember there is so much more to this world than fear. It reminds me that Mother Nature is really clever. And that all species adapt quickly and fresh snow peas are delicious :-)
Here is Sandra's delicious Chocolate Brownie Recipe, because life is better when you are munching on a chocolate brownie.
- 1 cup (150g) plain flour
- ¾ cup (75g) cocoa
- ¾ cup (130g) brown sugar
- 1 ⅓ cup (290g) caster sugar
- 175g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 eggs
- 125g dark chocolate, chopped
Place the flour, cocoa, brown sugar, caster sugar, melted butter, vanilla and the 3 eggs in a large bowl.
Mix everything until it is smooth.
Add the chopped chocolate and stir to combine.
Preheat the oven to 160 deg C
Lightly grease and line a 20cm square tin with non-stick baking paper.
Spread the mixture into the tin.
Bake for 50 minutes to an hour until the Brownie is set.
You can touch the top of the brownie with your fingertips to see if it is firm and set.
Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before removing and slicing into squares and serving warm. Or you can allow it to cool completely in the tin.
Makes 16 x pieces.
For people who are still looking forward to receiving their tax cheque, here are some great ideas on how to use it, to improve your year ahead.
Pay some off your mortgage: as that payment is a good way to make sure that if interest rates increase in the future, you will have extra funds set aside, besides you will pay less interest in the long term.
Reduce Credit Card or other types of debts: this is far more valuable than getting instant gratification from a purchase. Eliminating debt now, has a far more positive outcome later.
Debtless purchase: if you need to make a very large purchase, a tax refund might go a fair way towards buying that item debt free. Doing your homework and taking advantage of carefully sourced items at sales, will pay dividends.
Build your super: you could add extra money to your Super, reaping the rewards for later when you retire.
Build a cash fund: not spending your tax cheque and keeping it as a small 'stash of cash', (meaning small, safe, readily accessible funds) is a nice luxury especially if you are planning to retire earlier than the 'official retirement age'
Boosting your savings: adding tax cheque money to your 'long term savings' is also a way of boosting them.
Long term investment: you can put the money into a compounding interest account. Then your savings will grow and grow.
Plan for the year ahead: have a look at your budget and if there are any gaps then you can use your tax cheque to fill them.
There are plenty of choices: this may sound silly but you don't have to spend your tax cheque in one place or use it for one thing. You can choose a few things to do with your tax refund which will make you better off.
Late one night about 15 years ago I was awake and trying to work out how to teach other people to find deals and make wise decisions. Then I realised I followed a process. Wrote it down for everyone and called it the Eight Steps to Happiness. These were later shortened to three steps and became the motto, "Stop. Think. Save!"
In the last couple of months I have been going back to these eight steps and feeling incredibly grateful for them. But, things have changed and is time for an update.
Before you make a decision, pause for just a minute. Stop yourself and start your brain thinking about whether or not you are about to make a good or a bad decision. An influencer's job is to influence you. Find a way to trigger your internal alarm bell, so you can STOP and make sure the decision you are about to make is your own. Then move on to Step 2.
If you feel uncomfortable then your decision making is impaired. Before you go any further. Ask yourself: Am I scared? Am I hungry? Am I in pain? Am I being pressured? If the answer is yes to any of those things are true. Then you are easy to manipulate and making a wise decision is going to be very difficult. Delay your decision until you are comfortable. Then move on to Step 3.
There are so many other things you could have. Is this what you really want? Do you have other choices? Are there any other options? If you have decided that this is the only thing you want, go to Step 4.
Every decision has a physical cost. Whether it be the time it takes to earn the money or the toll it takes on your body. Research whether or not it is worth your effort? If so, move on to Step 5.
Everything has a benefit. What will your decision gain you? Are they real gains or fools gold? Will it improve your health and happiness or genuinely improve your life? How? It is important that you are really skeptical. Now move on to Step 6.
From every decision you make, you will gain something and lose something. If you are lucky, the only thing you lose is cash, and the time it took you to earn that money. But this is not always the case. Once you are certain you have worked out everything you will lose, move on to Step 7.
Now it is time to shop around and find what all the possible options are. How can you make sure you are getting the best value, the safest and the wisest option? Occasionally, working it out for yourself will take more time than you save, but you will get satisfaction in knowing that you have NOT been tricked and are doing the best for your family. Once you have researched your decision and found the best way, move on to Step 8.
Most of the time, buying things on credit is stupid. So if you don't have the cash, remain free, walk away and live happily ever after. Nothing is worth burdening yourself with debt for. This means you should avoid credit cards, After Pay, interest free loans, mortgage refinancing facilities, etc. Only buy something if you have the spare cash - and if you don't, go home and save until you do.
These Eight Steps are the key to making wise choices so you can live a better low stress life.
I sent this letter to my Federal MP Ted O'Brien. It was never given to him. Hopefully, you enjoy reading it.
82 years ago my grandfather was picked up by the Gestapo for the second time. This time they let him go in the hope that he would lead them to jewels and other Jews. He didn't, instead he and his mate grabbed their backpacks and skis and started climbing the Alps. When the Gestapo arrived at his home to re-capture him and his goodies. He was already gone. The Gestapo had missed him by fifteen minutes.
As my grandfather and his friend climbed the Alps a patrol found them. Flipped a coin, shot his mate and let my grandfather keep climbing. From there he walked across Europe, caught a boat to Australia and safety.
I am very proud of my grandfather. He was wise, clever and strong. He got all of his family to safe places where they could live freely and would never be gassed or experimented on.
Living in Australia I have always felt safe, until now. At the moment, I am afraid. Two weeks ago someone reported our primary school to the Police because they thought the school wasn't enforcing masks adequately at school pick up. Watching people turn on their own community is disturbing. The part of me that used to gawp at my grandma's friend's concentration camp tattoos is horrified.
The Covid craziness is infecting people and I fear that we have not learned from the errors humanity made in World War 2. Such as,
- One person's beliefs are not more important than another person's beliefs.
- Never let the people at the top have too much power, just in case they go mad with it.
- Bad things happen, when good people do nothing.
- No forced or coerced medical procedures or experiments, EVER.
- Everyone is equal. Do not victimise, isolate or create divides.
- When people turn on each other. No one is safer and everyone loses.
The craziest and scariest Covid concept I have seen so far is the Vaccine Passport. It is an excuse for one group to force their medical beliefs onto another group. It is everything my grandfather escaped Germany to avoid.
I'm writing to you because you are one of the very few men in Australia in a position to stop the Vaccine Passport. As one of your constituents I really want to admire you and I pray you are wise, clever and strong like my grandfather. Because right now we need community leaders to be the sort of people their grandchildren will admire and be proud of for many years.
I'm writing to you to beg you to do all you can to stop the Vaccine Passport. Even though you may feel like your voice in your party is small. Can you please use it to protect our freedom and our society? We are counting on you.
Thank you everyone for humouring me. I'm sorry this newsletter is not as money focused as some people expect from me. But, Covid is all consuming. It seems this newsletter had taken up residence in my skull and I couldn't do anything else until it was typed out and sent.